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What The Papers Say - 22 March

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

Everton v Swansea

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Test Liverpool Echo PNG

FOR A while, it seemed Goodison might witness a finale dramatic enough to win the approval of new Blue convert Dame Judi Dench.

But in the end, the original grand Old Lady was not in a giving mood, and Everton were left empty-handed with only their own slack start to blame for denying them a point against Arsenal.

If the Oscar-winning Mrs Dench was watching, after she became a patron of Everton's official charity this week, she will have been appalled at how David Moyes' men fluffed their lines in the opening 20 minutes.

It was the sort of sleep-walking start which can prove costly, but not as costly as it would be to Moyes' personal coffers if he was to vent his true opinion on the performance of the match officials, who also played starring roles in the result.

Assistant referee John Flynn resembled a stranger who had been dragged off the street, given a crash course in the offside rules, had a flag thrust in his hand and asked to try his best.

Whatever, his best was not good enough - not by far, and his decision to rule out Royston Drenthe's goal inflicted a second league defeat in two games on the Toffees.

But whatever their complaints, Everton should recognise their own part in the outcome. It took just seconds after the whistle for Arsenal to waste a glorious chance after some sustained opening pressure.

A slick move involving Mikel Arteta, saw Tomas Rosicky whip a dangerous cross which Robin Van Persie selflessly cushioned across goal with his head and Aaron Ramsey made a mess of a simple chance.

The red and white tide kept coming, and only Sylvain Distin's sliding block denied Ramsey moments later, before Arsenal did take the lead. From Van Persie's corner, Marouane Fellaini allowed Tomas Vermaelen a free header, which the central defender flicked beyond Tim Howard.

Everton were on the ropes already. Next Arteta freed Van Persie who drew a smart low save from Everton's goalkeeper, as the subdued home crowd tried to come to terms with the relentless buffeting of their team.

Desperate to try and take the sting out of their opponents' ferocious start, Everton managed to keep the ball, and Fellaini tried to atone for his part in the opener by heading across for Osman who in turn prodded wide with his head.

Arsene Wenger's side were finding space all over the pitch though, and the Toffees seemed vulnerable.

Vermaelen pulled another effort wide of Everton's goal on 18 minutes, there had been so many it was difficult to keep count, and Moyes prowled his technical area looking increasingly irate.

He was right to be frustrated. His men had started sluggishly, struggled to find any fluency with their passing and did not press the ball with anywhere near the right intensity to unsettle the Gunners.

Even their set pieces were weak; Steven Pienaar wasted their first corner as his in-swinger dropped harmlessly onto the roof of Wojciech Szczesny's goal.

If Moyes' mood was darkening, it became pitch black when Everton were denied an equaliser on half an hour by a terrible offside decision. Royston Drenthe held his run cleverly and was being kept onside by Laurent Koscielny, as he collected Tim Cahill's pass and coolly slotted, only to have his celebrations curtailed by John Flynn's flag.

At least it sparked a response, with Nikica Jelavic almost nipping in shortly after and Leon Osman and Cahill trying to inject some belated bite into the midfield.

It worked, with the period before the break signalling real intent from the home side as another borderline offside decision denied Jelavic a shooting chance, and then Drenthe.

Fourth official John Moss must have known what was coming, and duly received an earful from Moyes who had declined to do his press conference after Saturday's game with Sunderland due to his anger at the officials.

He used that anger to galvanise his side at the interval, and they started the second half like they meant business, pushing Arsenal onto the back foot and getting about the visitor's with belated aggression. Cahill was setting the tone again, lunging into a challenge on Koscielny which earned him a booking but ignited the home crowd.

Ironic applause followed Flynn's next intervention, when he was late with his flag again, this time raising it only after Van Persie had struck the post as Arsenal countered, although Kieran Gibbs had clearly been lingering off-side.

The offside tennis continued. Next it was Fellaini ruled off, this time correctly, after more Everton pressure saw him bear down on the Gunners' goal. And then Jelavic was felled in the area by Koscielny, but Mason waved away the penalty claims as Goodison bubbled over.

Suddenly it was the sort of snarling atmosphere which usually sees visitors buckle at the bear-pit. But despite all their harrying, pressure and fight Arsenal should have doubled their lead only for Howard again to deny Ramsey with an excellent low save. Then at the other end Drenthe blazed over when the ball dropped to him from Pienaar's corner.

Even if three minutes of injury time seemed woefully inadequate given the stoppages, Everton had blown themselves out eventually, and will have to lick their wounds as that five-year winless streak against Arsenal goes on.

Test Liverpool Echo PNG

DAVID MOYES slammed the catalogue of dodgy decisions from linesman John Flynn which cost Everton a point against Arsenal.

The Blues rallied after going a goal down to Tomas Vermaelen's eighth-minute header at Goodison last night, but were denied an equaliser later in the first half when Royston Drenthe's goal was wrongly ruled offside by the assistant referee.

It was one of five key decisions which Moyes felt went against his men, as they missed the chance to move above Sunderland and Stoke in the Premier League table, and the Blues boss was furious.

He said: "There're five which are onside, five decisions, I've checked.

"It's a goal.

"We've had a sore deal the last few games, we've had really poor decisions against us.

"But it was the assistant who got them wrong.

"You can say you can get one wrong, but it's really poor deal.

"It's cost us in the end, cost us trying to get something back after a disappointing start, I thought the players played really well after that [opening goal], I thought they gave it a right go."

Arsene Wenger's side moved up to third place after their 1-0 victory, and the Londoners dominated the opening 20 minutes as Everton failed to live with their pace and movement.

Moyes admitted that slow start was another key factor in his side's defeat, but still insisted they warranted at least a point ahead of Saturday's visit to Swansea.

"Apart from the first 20 minutes, I thought we played as good as Arsenal, we're really unlucky not to take something from this game," he said.

"I thought Arsenal in the first 20 minutes ‘my goodness, I can see how well they're doing', but we had to change, we've not started the last two games well."

The Post

SYLVAIN DISTIN has warned his Everton FC team-mates that dreaming of a Wembley derby showdown will scupper hopes of FA Cup glory.

David Moyes's side travel to Sunderland on Tuesday evening for their quarter-final replay after being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Goodison.

Victory for Everton would set up a mouthwatering semi-final showdown with Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday, April 14.

But Distin - who appeared at the new national stadium three times while a Portsmouth player, including lifting the FA Cup in 2008 - admits dwelling on such a possibility may prove fatal when they walk out at the Stadium of Light next week.

"It's still a long way before thinking about Liverpool and Wembley," said the 34-year-old. "It won't be an easy game at Sunderland.

"They have one or two very influential players to come back, so it will be a tough game.

"I'm not thinking about Wembley right now. I was before the first game against Sunderland, but this is a different game now.

"It's away from home and it's going to be tough. I just want to focus on that before thinking I would be happy to play at Wembley again.

"You have to be 100% focused every single time, otherwise you will end up getting beat."
Everton's goal against Sunderland was scored by Tim Cahill, only his second of a difficult campaign but his eighth career strike against the Black Cats.

And the Australian is convinced that he can forge a fruitful partnership up front with Nikica Jelavic, the £5.5million striker signing from Rangers in January.

"For myself it's about trying to put myself in the right areas, and so long as the lads can get the ball in, then me and Jela are definitely going to get some opportunities," said Cahill.

"We probably could have created a lot more against Sunderland. But it's always nice to get a goal, I've scored a few against Sunderland and their fans are probably sick of the sight of me.

"It was either gamble that Jela was going to miss it or he was going to get a flick, and he scuffed it a bit, so I was already in the air and it was an instinctive reaction.

"There have been so many times this season when I've got in there, but the run I was in it either hit the post or was saved or whatever, but I just kept trying and trying again, and it went for me."

Cahill added: "We are a good football team, we have developed a hell of a lot since the start of the season and we are getting stronger.

"The manager is really starting to get the best out of the players and, believe me, anything is still possible for us."

Meanwhile, five Everton youngsters will remain out on loan for the remainder of the season.
James Wallace is at League One neighbours Tranmere Rovers and duo Jake Bidwell and Adam Forshaw are in the same division with Brentford, while Aristote Nsiala (Accrington Stanley) and Luke Garbutt (Cheltenham) will stay in League Two.

Daily Mirror

Arsene Wenger has told Arsenal not to let up after they climbed above Tottenham into third.

Wenger does not want his players to think they have a top-four spot in the bag despite registering a sixth straight league win against Everton to turn around Spurs' 12-point advantage in just seven weeks.

"We have learnt in the last months that, for example, we have taken six points in Liverpool in two weeks," said the Arsenal boss. "They were 180 minutes of intense fight.

"We want to keep going. We must not think that the most difficult bit is done.

"The most difficult bit is still to do and to achieve it, it's important we have humility, are focused and fight for each other.

"That's what we did [tonight]. We were resilient and focused and you have seen a side to us that usually people don't know.

"It was the only way to get the result tonight and it's good to know that we can do that."
David Moyes felt his Everton side were robbed by assistant referee John Flynn, who wrongly disallowed Royston Drenthe's equaliser for offside.

Flynn angered Sir Alex Ferguson earlier this season for his part in Newcastle's controversial penalty at Old Trafford and Moyes said he got several offside calls wrong.

"There were five that were onside," he said. "I've checked and it was a goal.

"There were some really poor decisions in the game against us and it was the assistant who got them wrong.

"You can understand him getting one wrong, but it was really, really poor and it cost us as we tried to get something back after a disappointing start.

"I thought we were really unlucky not to get something from the game."

 

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